Addressing Reintegration and Reducing Recidivism Through Workforce Development

Addressing Reintegration and Reducing Recidivism Through Workforce Development

With limited employment opportunities after release from prison, a significant number of individuals are not able to successfully integrate back into society. There are jobs available for those reintegrating, but oftentimes come with pitfalls such as lower wages due to their criminal history. Although several industries provide great workforce opportunities for those with prior criminal charges, there are still many roadblocks for employment in a wide range of career paths. The quality of jobs and wages are important determinants of recidivism among former prisoners, according to recent evidence.

In the US, over two-thirds of ex-prisoners are rearrested within three years of release due to an inability to secure stable employment. Decreases in aggregate crime rates are associated with improvements in aggregate labor market conditions.

There is evidence that higher wages for low-skilled workers with the concept of investing in their workforce training and skill development with the focus of employment opportunities in sectors that pay higher wages to low-skilled workers can reduce recidivism among recently released prisoners. This model also generally creates more loyalty for the ex-offender to their newfound employer and may help employee retention numbers for the company.

Community partners in Arkansas such as Project Restore Hope and United Way’s 100 Families Initiative have been tremendous resources, and more organizations are coming onboard regularly to align with the concept of providing a hand-up to those looking to improve their situation after incarceration and develop our state’s workforce. 

The obstacles that released prisoners face, from substance abuse to mental health disorders to social and family problems, can dwarf any impact of employment on their chances of recidivism. It is imperative that we create a culture within the second-chance employment community of embracing these challenges and supporting these individuals in receiving the help they need and guidance on where they can access resources.

Increasingly, communities are recognizing the need for employment programs and labor market policies to help reduce recidivism among prisoners after their release. We must continue to foster community partnerships with employers, nonprofits and the justice system to create pathways to success within our state. Creating opportunity and reducing recidivism will help our economy grow, save taxpayer dollars and create an enhanced, flourishing economy primed for growth in Arkansas.

Max Avery for Arkansas